Following the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the East Coast, U.S. Homeland Security determined that schools and hospitals are two of our country’s most vulnerable soft targets.
Attacks on schools in the U.S. would have a ripple effect across the world. While schools in Israel, for instance, are behind chain link fences, most schools around the U.S. and in other countries are not locked down. When most people envision what a locked-down school would look like, the image is a hard one for people to accept.
Legislators in central Ohio are pretty serious about citizen safety. According to the Policy Analysis on School Safety, created by the Ohio Collaborative and part of the Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology, legislators have passed several laws regarding student safety, including:
• Mandating zero tolerance regarding violent, disruptive or inappropriate behavior
• Requiring school safety planning regarding crisis-oriented safety issues (i.e. a school safety plan for each building)
• Requiring fire drill and lockdown procedures and practice
• Permitting school discipline codes to address student misconduct that occurs off school grounds
• Requiring that schools establish an anti-harassment and bullying policy
In light of the new safety legislation tied to students, Worthington City Schools created a position called Student Support, which has student safety as a core responsibility. This individual participates in the central Ohio chapter of Homeland Security. This chapter meets regularly with safety officials so that everyone knows the important personnel in case a safety issue arises.
The Homeland Security Advisory Committee of Ohio asked our district to work with it to develop a training video on how to recognize and respond to bomb threats, as well as how to respond appropriately if a bomb is found on campus, in an effort to help address the vulnerability of schools. The Advisory Committee received a federal grant from Homeland Security for the development of the video and supporting materials.
We started the process by creating a workgroup to develop the video and supplemental materials. The workgroup is made up of individuals from the Homeland Security Advisory Committee, Worthington City Schools, the Columbus Division of Fire Bomb Squad (DCFBS), Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Paratus Solutions–a nonprofit healthcare and public health emergency preparedness organization in central Ohio–various local safety officials and PublicSchoolWORKS, our safety compliance vendor.